Thursday, September 3, 2009

This post is a pointless whine. Don't bother reading unless you've found it by Googling "Time Warner Cable" AND sucks OR "Your call is like a gnat's buzz to us."

On Tuesday I got my cable bill and was surprised to see it was past due. Not because I'm prompt about paying my bills, but because it's on auto-pay. Months ago I gave them a credit card number, and they've been charging it ever since. Until this month, apparently.

I called customer service -- in the future when I mention calling Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), just assume it took twenty minutes and eighteen repetitions of Pachelbel's Canon before I got connected to a person -- and they told me they tried to charge my card on August 17, but it was rejected as expired. My fault! I asked the man how, if the payment was due on August 17, I could be thirty days past due on August 27, but he launched into some explanation that included August 7 and September 7 and December 7, a day that will live in infamy. Couldn't make heads or tails of it, so I thanked the guy and went online to fix my credit card.

Which, I discovered, expires in November, 2011.

I called Chase, and they assured me the card was fine. And nobody'd tried to charge anything.

Over the next two hours I spoke to nearly everyone at Time Warner and heard Pachelbel's Canon 1,274 times. Leticia, Paulina, and the supervisor Shahida might as well have been speaking Klingon for all the sense they made, but a few points were crystal clear: The Chase credit card people were liars, my bill was thirty days past due, and I had to do three things immediately to fix it:

1. Make a one-time payment to catch up and avoid a late charge.
2. Cancel the automatic payment on the expired card.
3. Sign up for automatic payment on a working card.

Now, one of my bad qualities is that I want things to make sense before I blindly follow along. I asked Shahida to connect me with her supervisor. She said he was busy, but he'd call back before seven. I should stay off the phone and wait for his call.

This was at noon.

Seven came and went, and yesterday morning when I called Time Warner they said Shahida's supervisor had tried to call at 7:16 but my line was busy.

Because, you know, at seven I started making all the phone calls I'd put off during the day.

Jennifer said all the supervisors were busy, but she'd have one call me back. Is there a time period when I can expect this call? I asked.

"We don't give callbacks after seven," she said.

With, you know, a straight face.

"But yesterday I got a callback after seven," I replied.

"A few minutes after," she snapped, like I was the Chronology Police.

Anyway, I said fine, because I don't have to think people are intelligent to agree with them. And, believe it or not, a supervisor called me back ten minutes later. He was smart and sensible and gave me a believable explanation. I won't use his name so Time Warner can't fire him for violating company policy.

Just about everything I'd been told the previous day had been a lie. See, Time Warner Cable outsourced its automatic billing to the CyberSource Corporation (NASDAQ:CYBS). Unfortunately, CyberSource had a small flaw in their software: they frequently charged expired credit cards. They wrote a fix and installed the upgrade, but it too had a tiny flaw.

It kicked out most of the valid credit cards.

Oops!

Mr. X also explained the past-due story. My billing cycle starts on the 7th of every month, and on that date the payment is due. Automatic payments are taken out on the 17th. How could I be thirty days past due on August 27? Because that wasn't an August 27 bill that was dated August 27 that I received on August 30. That was a bill for the September 7 cycle. And on September 7, I'd be thirty days past due.

Voila!

I felt like a 21st century Hercule Poirot, finally discovering the truth. Time Warner never tried to charge my credit card. When they automatically charge cards, they're allegedly ten days overdue, and their "30 days past due" notice is sent out two weeks in advance.

Yet they accuse credit card companies of incompetence.

But if I just go in and cancel the existing recurring billing, Mr. X said, and then restart it --

No, thanks. Had enough. Automatic payments are supposed to make life easier, not force me to spend two hours on the phone with bad classical music and idiots. I'll mail the checks in, thanks.

Because compared to the folks at the post office, these guys are totally incompetent.

1 comment:

Yet Another Steve said...

I must say that after years of perfectly execrable "service," the Time Warner Cable folks in the LA area have suddenly become nice as pie, and often answer the phone within five minutes! Of course this may have something to do with the fact that Verizon's FIOS has finally arrived, and people in droves are dumping shitty TWC the instant they can (as will I, approximately 1/2 second after this building is wired for FIOS next month). So, be of good cheer, relief may be on the way!

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